The adoption journey is not always easy, and it doesn’t end the day a child is welcomed home.
Many people are unfamiliar with the full experience of those impacted by adoption. As a result, it’s very easy to be inadvertently offensive or insensitive in comments or questions. As we seek to bring vulnerable children home to families, we want to be careful to use our words in a way that encourages and brings life.
Although the heart behind the words is almost never mean, we have to be careful with the language we use. Here are four common phrases many people don’t realize could be hurtful:
1. “Do you have any children of your own?”
At its very core, this question misses a foundational truth: Families are built through love, not blood. (Tweet this truth!)
This question can also bring further injury to a child as their place within the family, and their relationship with their parents, is brought into question as “something other” than one of belonging and connection. Every child, regardless if they come home by adoption or by birth, is a parent’s “own.”
2. “How much did you spend?”
Although this question can be asked with a motivation and language that is appropriate, many times it is not. Adoption costs help to provide for a child’s care before placement, as well as the legal, court, and administrative processes necessary to protect children from unethical placement.
For children who have been orphaned, adoption is a beautiful way for them to come into the love, protection, and nurture of a family. Regardless of the cost of the process, the value of each child is incalculable. The phrasing of this question can infringe on a child’s dignity by speaking of them in the same way we would speak about a commodity purchased at a store.
3. “She/he is so lucky.”
This type of statement can create negative connotations about the child’s biological parents and/or birth country. It’s also harmful to assume that adoptive parents are “heroes” compared to the child’s birth family. It creates unnecessary tension for the family and overlooks the tremendous loss the child has experienced.
As David Platt so wonderfully put it: “It’s important to realize we adopt not because we are rescuers. No. We adopt because we are rescued.”
4. “Can I hold him/her?”
This is so tricky, and it’s hard to see how this question shouldn’t be asked. But, it’s very important, especially early on, that a child is not held by other adults besides his or her parents.
Adoption involves a great deal of transition for both the parents and the child. Well-intentioned requests like, “Can I hold her?” or, “Can I feed him?” can potentially disrupt the important developmental process of bonding with the parents. Attachment between parent and child takes longer for some, so it’s very important to let the parents take the lead on this.
Are you an adoptive or foster parent? Is there anything you would add to this list? Let us know in the comments below.
As we look for ways to restore hope through adoption, consider the many avenues available with Show Hope. Connect with us to learn more about the adoption process, ways to provide aid, and other creative ways to care for children living as orphans.